After a couple grammar-intensive blogs, I figured I'd throw in the most basic of non-grammar writing tips--formatting.
Formatting is often the first thing an agent, editor, or contest judge notices--especially when the writer makes obvious mistakes that leave the impression he/she hasn't researched how to prepare a manuscript. While improper formatting won't necessarily earn an automatic rejection from an agent or editor, it will take away "free" points in a contest and put some agents and editors in a less-than-favorable mood toward the actual writing.
Show that you've worked to prepare your submission in a professional manner by following standard manuscript formatting (or the agent's, publisher's, or contest's guidelines, if available)!
Current Standard Submission Formatting:
1) Use 1-inch margins on all sides.
2) Use left justification for the body of the manuscript.
3) Double space the manuscript.
4) Author name and title are placed to the left side of the header. Exception--most contests do not allow the entrant's name on the entry. Read and follow the rules!!!
5) Page numbers belong in the upper right corner.
6) Use Times New Roman as standard font unless otherwise specified in the submission guidelines.
7) Use 12-point typeface.
8) Paragraphs are indented 1/2 inch.
9) Use one space between sentences.
10) Begin chapters 1/3 down the new page.
11) Chapter numbers/titles are centered, with an additional double space before the beginning of the text and using standard font and typeface size. Do not use bold, italics, or underline.
12) Use italics for italicized words in the manuscript.
13) Scene breaks are centered, using ### or ***. Use an additional double space before and after the scene break.
14) Save and send the document as a .doc unless the guidelines require a different document format. Again, read and follow the rules!!!
An additional tip--Always submit a "clean" copy of the manuscript. Accepted/rejected track changes comments can reappear when the document is reopened.
Make a good first impression by learning and following the standard formatting rules. Show that agent, editor, or judge you're a professional who deserves an offer of representation, a contract, or a high score!
And did I mention you should ALWAYS read and follow the guidelines???
Romance...With A Kick!